James Wolcott – “Tarantula Meets Mustang: Dylan Calls on Patti Smith” (1975)

July 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Patti Smith, Reviews & Articles)

Taken from The Village Voice, July 7, 1975…

Her Passion Was a Planet Wave

A copy of Witt was slid across the table to Patti Smith. “Would you sign this for me, please?” “Sure,” said Patti, “what’s your first name?” He told her. “Like in New Jersey?” Patti asked, and he said no — with a z. “Well, I’ll draw you a map of Jersey,” and so on the inside page Patti scratched its intestinal boundaries, in the middle labeled it Neo Jersey, signed her name, and passed the copy of Wittback to Jerzy Kosinski.The night before, after the second set at the Other End, the greenroom door opened and the remark hanging in the air was Bob Dylan asking a member of Patti’s band, “You’ve never been to New Jersey?” So, all hail Jersey. And in honor of Dylan’s own flair for geographical salutation (“So long New York, hello East Orange”), all hail the Rock and Roll Republic of New York. With the Rolling Stones holding out at Madison Square Garden, Patti Smith and her band at the Other End, and Bob Dylan making visitations to both events, New York was once again the world’s Rock and Roll Republic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “Infidels” (1983)

April 18, 2011 at 7:18 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

A Nov. 24, 1983 review by Christopher Connelly from Rolling Stone…

Infidels is Bob Dylan’s best album since the searing Blood on the Tracks nine years ago, a stunning recovery of the lyric and melodic powers that seemed to have all but deserted him. Under the aegis of Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, Dylan has produced eight vigorous songs that teem with self-effacing introspection and wit, free of the cant that’s weighted down his recent efforts. The songs on Infidels touch on religion and politics but are rooted in an ineffably deep sadness: the sadness of broken hearts and broken dreams, the sadness of middle age, the sadness that has been the wellspring of great rock & roll from Robert Johnson to “Every Breath You Take.” Flaming through that sadness is the sort of hell-hound-on-my-trail passion that you’d have to reach back ten years to find in Dylan’s recorded work.

Who could have expected so strong a rebound at this late date, especially after such flat, lifeless records as Saved or Shot of Love? Those LPs culminated a process that began with 1975’s Desire, wherein Dylan was purging himself of the metaphors and personas that had vaulted him to Sixties sainthood by rendering simple, limpid tales about his personal life. To hear the man of a thousand poses wailing “Sara, oh Sara/Don’t ever leave Read the rest of this entry »

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“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973)

April 12, 2011 at 7:19 am (Bob Dylan, Cinema, Reviews & Articles, Roger Ebert)

Controversial director Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 western, featuring James Coburn and Bob Dylan (who did the soundtrack). This review comes courtesy of Roger Ebert in the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, May 23, 1973. Clearly, Ebert was not impressed about anything concerning this movie, including Dylan’s performance and music…


Sam Peckinpah attempted to have his name removed from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I sympathized with him. If this wasn’t entirely his work, he shouldn’t have had to take the blame. And even if it was, the less said the better. It’s a movie that exists almost entirely on one note — a low, melancholy one — and achieves what I thought would have been impossible for him Peckinpah: he’s boring.

The movie tells a simple story, simple-mindedly. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, good and true friends from way back, find themselves on opposite sides of the law when Garrett becomes sheriff. He locks Billy up for an old murder, and Billy is scheduled to hang in three days. Billy blasts his way out of jail, goes on the run, and sets up a chase through the West that lasts for the final hour of the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “Shot of Love” (1981)

September 12, 2010 at 9:14 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

The late Paul Nelson’s Oct. 15, 1981 Rolling Stone review of this mostly-forgotten (except for “Every Grain of Sand”), much-maligned final album in the “born again” trilogy. To say Nelson hates this album is an understatement. You can picture him making a copy of “Every Grain of Sand” (the one song he likes), and then smashing the album to bits moments later…


When I first heard it, Shot of Love sounded like Bob Dylan’s most interesting record in a long time. Interesting, not good. Though many of the songs seemed wretchedly written, the artist’s churning mixture of ultimate love (God’s) and ultimate hate (Dylan’s), positiveness and paranoia, missilery and martyrdom, struck me as perhaps deliberate–as if he were laying out all the contradictions in a line, creating a fractured but understandable self-portrait for us to put together. To know him is to love him, as they say, and it’s pretty difficult to do either these days. With “Every Grain of Sand,” Dylan actually opened the door a little, ushered the listener in with some uncharacteristically warm and inviting harmonica playing, and offered a remarkably unwarlike account of why he became a Read the rest of this entry »

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Jerry Hopkins – “‘New’ Dylan Album Bootlegged in LA” (1969)

July 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

A Sept. 20, 1969 Rolling Stone article about Great White Wonder, one of the most famous bootleg albums of all time, and the first of its kind. Look what these two gentlemen started…

More then 2,300 copies of a “bootleg” Bob Dylan album are now being sold in Los Angeles in what may be the entertainment industry’s first truly hip situation comedy.

The simply-produced package … 26 cuts on two plain unmarked discs called Great White Wonder was made from tapes never before released by Dylan or by his now rather miffed record label, Columbia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “11 Outlined Epitaphs” (1963)

April 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

I end up then
in the early evenin’
blindly punchin’ at the blind
breathin’ heavy
an’ blowin’ up
where t’ go?
what is it that’s exactly wrong?
who t’ picket?
who t’ fight?
behind what windows
will I at least
hear someone from the supper table
get up t’ ask
“did I hear someone outside just now?”
an hour ago
it came t’ me
in a second’s flash
an’ was all so clear
it still is now
yes it is
it’s maybe hidin’
it must be hidin’
the shot has shook
me up . . . for I’ve never
heard that sound before
bringing wild thoughts at first
ragged wild
numb wild
now though they’ve leveled out
an’ been wrung out
leavin’ nothin’ but the strangeness
the roots within a washed-out cloth
drippin’ from the clothesline pole
strange thoughts
doubtin’ thoughts
useless an’ unnecessary
the blast it’s true
startled me back but for a spell
content with
all pictures, posters an’ the like
that’re painted for me
ah but I turned
an’ the nex’ time I looked
the gloves of garbage
had clobbered the canvas
leavin’ truckloads of trash
clutterin’ the colors
with a blindin’ sting
forcin’ me t’ once again
slam the shutters of my eyes
but also me to wonderin’
when they’ll open
much much stronger
than anyone whose own eyes’re
aimed over here at mine
“when will he open up his eyes?”
“who him? doncha know? he’s a crazy man
he never opens up his eyes”
“but he’ll surely miss the world go by”
“nah! he lives in his own world”
“my my then he really must be a crazy man”
“yeah he’s a crazy man”

an’ so on spangled streets
an’ country roads
I hear sleigh bells
jingle jangle
virgin girls
far into the field
sing an’ laugh
with flickerin’ voices
softly fadin’
I stop an’ smile
an’ rest awhile
watchin’ the candles
of sundown dim
unnoticed for my eyes’re closed


The town I was born in holds no memories
but for the honkin’ foghorns
the rainy mist
the rocky cliffs
I have carried no feelings
up past the Lake Superior hills
the town I grew up in is the one
that has left me with my legacy visions
it was not a rich town
my parents were not rich
it was not a poor town
an’ my parents were not poor
it was a dyin’ town
(it was a dyin’ town)
a train line cuts the ground
showin’ where the fathers an’ mothers
of me an’ my friends had picked
up an’ moved from
north Hibbing
t’ south Hibbing.
old north Hibbing . . .
already dead
with its old stone courthouse
decayin’ in the wind
long abandoned
windows crashed out
the breath of its broken walls
being smothered in clingin’ moss
the old school
where my mother went to
rottin’ shiverin’ but still livin’
standin’ cold an’ lonesome
arms cut off
with even the moon bypassin’ its jagged body
pretendin’ not t’ see
an’ givin’ it its final dignity
dogs howled over the graveyard
where even the markin’ stones were dead
an’ there was no sound except for the wind
blowin’ through the high grass
an’ the bricks that fell back
t’ the dirt from a slight stab
of the breeze . . . it was as though
the rains of wartime had
left the land bombed-out an’ shattered

south Hibbing
is where everybody came t’ start their
town again. but the winds of the
north came followin’ an’ grew fiercer
an’ the years went by
but I was young
an’ so I ran
an’ kept runnin’ . . .

I am still runnin’ I guess
but my road has seen many changes
for I’ve served my time as a refugee
in mental terms an’ in physical terms
an’ many a fear has vanished
an’ many an attitude has fallen
an’ many a dream has faded
an’ I know I shall meet the snowy North
again-but with changed eyes nex’ time ’round
t’ walk lazily down its streets
an’ linger by the edge of town
find old friends if they’re still around
talk t’ the old people
an’ the young people
runnin’ yes . . .
but stoppin’ for a while
embracin’ what I left
an’ lovin’ it-for I learned by now
never t’ expect
what it cannot give me


In times behind, I too
wished I’d lived
in the hungry thirties
an’ blew in Woody
t’ New York City
an’ sang for dimes
on subway trains
satisfied at a nickel fare
an’ passin’ the hat
an’ hittin’ the bars
on eighth avenue
an’ makin’ the rounds
t’ the union halls
but when I came in
the fares were higher
up t’ fifteen cents an’ climbin’
an’ those bars that Woody’s guitar
rattled . . . they’ve changed
they’ve been remodeled
an’ those union halls
like the cio
an’ the nmu
come now! can you see’em
needin’ me
for a song
or two

ah where are those forces of yesteryear?
why didn’t they meet me here
an’ greet me here?

the underground’s gone deeper
says the old chimney sweeper
the underground’s outa work
sing the bells of New York
the underground’s more dangerous
ring the bells of Los Angeles
the underground’s gone
cry the bells of San Juan
but where has it gone to
ring the bells of Toronto

strength now shines through my window
regainin’ me an’ rousin’ me
day by day
from the weariness
of walkin’ with ghosts
that rose an’ had risen
from the ruins an’ remains
of the model T past
even though I clutched t’ its sheet
I was still refused
an’ left confused
for there was nobody there
t’ let me in
a wasteland wind whistled
from behind the billboard “there’s nobody home
all has moved out”
flatly denied
I turned indeed
flinched at first
but said “ok
I get the message”
feelin’ unwanted? no
unloved? no
I felt nothin’
for there was nobody there
I didn’t see no one
t’ want or unwant
to love or unlove
maybe they’re there
but won’t let me in
not takin’ chances
on the ones the grittin’ of my teeth
for only a second
would mean
my mind has just been
swallowed whole
an’ so I step back t’ the street
an’ then turn further down the road
poundin’ on doors
not really
just out lookin’
a stranger?
no not a stranger but rather someone
who just doesn’t live here
never pretendin’ t’ be knowin’
what’s worth seekin’
but at least
without ghosts by my side
t’ betray my childishness
t’ leadeth me down false trails
an’ maketh me drink from muddy waters
yes it is I
who is poundin’ at your door
if it is inside
who hears the noise


Jim Jim
where is our party?
where all member’s held equal
an’ vow t’ infiltrate that thought
among the people it hopes t’ serve
an’ sets a respected road
for all of those like me
who cry
“I am ragin’ly against absolutely
everything that wants t’ force nature
t’ be unnatural (be it human or otherwise)
an’ I am violently for absolutely
everything that will fight those
forces (be them human or otherwise)”
oh what is the name of this gallant group?
lead me t’ the ballot box
what man do we run?
how many votes will it take
for a new set of teeth
in the congress mouths?
how many hands have t’ be raised
before hair will grow back
on the white house head?
a Boston tea party don’t mean the
same thing . . . as it did in the newborn
years before. even the
meanin’ of the word
has changed. ha
ha . . . t’ say the least
yes that party is truly gone
but where is the party t’ dump the feelings
of the fiery cross burners
an’ flamin’ match carriers?
if there was such a party
they would’ve been dumped
long before this . . . who is supposed
t’ dump ’em now?
when all can see their threads hang weak
but still hold strong
loyal but dyin’
fightin’ for breath
who then will kill its misery?
what sea shall we pollute?
when told t’ learn
what others know
in order for a soothin’ life
an’ t’ conquer many a brainwashed dream
I was set forth the forces on records an’ books
from the forces that were sold t’ me
an’ could be found in hung-up style
wanderin’ through crowded valleys
searchin’ for what others knew
with the eagles’ shadows
watchin’ waitin’
from high mountains
an’ me just walkin’
butterflies in my head
an’ bitter by now
(here! take this kid an’ learn it well
but why sir? my arms’re so heavy
I said take it. it’ll do yuh good
but I ain’t learned last night’s lesson yet.
am I gonna have t’ get mad with you?
no no gimme gimme just stick it on top
a the rest a the stuff
here! if yuh learn it well yuh’ll
get an A . . . an’ don’t do anything
I wouldn’t do)
and with each new brightnin’ phrase
more messy
till I found myself almost swallowed
deep in burden
walkin’ slower
heavier heavier
but at last I heard
the eagle drool
as I zombie strolled
up past the foothills
an’ I stopped cold
an’ bellowed
“I don’t wanna learn no more
I had enough”
an’ I took a deep breath
turned around
an’ ran for my life
shoutin’ shoutin’
back t’ the highway
away from the mountain
not carin’ no more
what people knew about things
but rather how they felt about things
runnin’ down another road
through time an’ dignity
an’ I have never taken off my boots
no matter how the miles have burnt
my feet . . .
an’ I’m still on that road, Jim
I’m still sleepin’ at night by its side
an’ eatin’ where it’ll lead me t’ food
where state lines don’t stand
an’ knowledge don’t count
when feelings are hurt
an’ I am on the side a them hurt feelings
plunged on by unsensitive hammers
an’ made t’ bleed by rusty nails
an’ I look t’ you, Jim
where is the party for those kind of feelings?
how’re the gamblers that wheel an’ deal an’
shuffle ’em around gonna be got outa the game?
from here in
beyond this
an’ from now on


Al’s wife claimed I can’t be happy
as the New Jersey night ran backwards
an’ vanished behind our rollin’ ear
“I dig the colors outside, an’ I’m happy”
“but you sing such depressin’ songs”
“but you say so on your terms”
“but my terms aren’t so unreal”
“yes but they’re still your terms”
“but what about others that think
in those terms”
“Lenny Bruce says there’re no dirty
words . . . just dirty minds an’ I say there’re
no depressed words just depressed minds”
“but how’re you happy an’ when ‘re you happy”
“I’m happy enough now”
“cause I’m calmly lookin’ outside an’ watchin’
the night unwind”
“what’d yuh mean unwind?”
“I mean somethin’ like there’s no end t’ it
an’ it’s so big
that every time I see it it’s like seein’
for the first time”
“so what?”
“so anything that ain’t got no end’s
just gotta be poetry in one
way or another”
“yeah, but . . . ”
“an’ poetry makes me feel good”
“but . . .”
“an’ poetry makes me feel happy”
“ok but . . . ”
“for the lack of a better word”
“but what about the songs you sing on stage?”
“they’re nothin’ but the unwindin’ of
my happiness”


Woody Guthrie was my last idol
he was the last idol
because he was the first idol
I’d ever met
face t’ face
that men are men
shatterin’ even himself
as an idol
an’ that men have reasons
for what they do
an’ what they say
an’ every action can be questioned
leavin’ no command
untouched an’ took for granted
obeyed an’ bowed down to
forgettin’ your own natural instincts
(for there’re a million reasons
in the world
an’ a million instincts
runnin’ wild
an’ it’s none too many times
the two shall meet)
the unseen idols create the fear
an’ trample hope when busted
Woody never made me fear
and he didn’t trample any hopes
for he just carried a book of Man
an’ gave it t’ me t’ read awhile
an’ from it I learned my greatest lesson

you ask “how does it feel t’ be an idol?”
it’d be silly of me t’ answer, wouldn’t it . . .?


A Russian has three an’ a half red eyes
five flamin’ antennas
drags a beet-colored ball an’ chain
an’ wants t’ slip germs
into my Coke machine
“burn the tree stumps at the border”
about the sex-hungry lunatics
out warmongerin’ in the early mornin’
“poison the sky so the planes won’t come”
yell the birch colored knights with
patriotic shields
“an’ murder all the un-Americans”
say the card-carryin’ American
book burners
(yes we burned five books last week)
as my friend, Bobby Lee,
walks back an’ forth
free now from his native Harlem
where his ma still sleeps at night
hearin’ rats inside the sink
an’ underneath her hardwood bed
an’ walls of holes
where the cold comes in
wrapped in blankets
an’ she, God knows,
is kind
an’ gentle
ain’t there no closer villains
that the baby-eaten’ Russians
rats eat babies too

I talked with one
of the sons of Germany
while walkin’ once on foreign ground
an’ I learned that
he regards
Adolf Hitler
as we here in the states
Robert E. Lee

fasten up your holster
mr. gunslinger
an’ buy new bolts
for your neck
there is only up wing
an’ down wing

last night I dreamt
that while healin’ ceiling
up in Harlem
I saw Canada ablaze
an’ nobody knowin’
nothin’ about it
except of course
who held the match


Yes, I am a thief of thoughts
not, I pray, a stealer of souls
I have built an’ rebuilt
upon what is waitin’
for the sand on the beaches
carves many castles
on what has been opened
before my time
a word, a tune, a story, a line
keys in the wind t’ unlock my mind
an’ t’ grant my closet thoughts backyard air
it is not of me t’ sit an’ ponder
wonderin’ an’ wastin’ time
thinkin’ of thoughts that haven’t been thunk
thinkin’ of dreams that haven’t been dreamt
an’ new ideas that haven’t been wrote
an’ new words t’ fit into rhyme
(if it rhymes, it rhymes
if it don’t, it don’t
if it comes, it comes
if it won’t, it won’t)

no I must react an’ spit fast
with weapons of words
wrapped in tunes
that’ve rolled through the simple years
teasin’ me t’ treat them right
t’ reshape them an’ restring them
t’ protect my own world
from the mouths of all those
who’d eat it
an’ hold it back from eatin’ its own food
hundreds thousands
perhaps millions
for all songs lead back t’ the sea
an’ at one time, there was
no singin’ tongue t’ imitate it)
t’ make new sounds out of old sounds
an’ new words out of old words
an’ not t’ worry about the new rules
for they ain’t been made yet
an’ t’ shout my singin’ mind
knowin’ that it is me an’ my kind
that will make those rules . . .
if the people of tomorrow
really need the rules of today
rally ’round all you prosecutin’ attorneys
the world is but a courtroom
but I now the defendants better ‘n you
and while you’re busy prosecutin’
we’re busy whistlin’
cleanin’ up the courthouse
sweepin’ sweepin’
listenin’ listenin’
winkin’ t’ one another
your spot is comin’ up soon


Oh where were these magazines
when I was bummin’ up an’ down
up an’ down the street?
is it that they too just sleep
in their high thrones . . . openin’
their eyes when people pass
expectin’ each t’ bow as they go by
an’ say “thank you Mr. Magazine.
did I answer all my questions right?”
ah but mine is of another story
for I do not care t’ be made an oddball
bouncin’ past reporters’ pens
cooperatin’ with questions
aimed at eyes that want t’ see
“there’s nothin’ here
go back t’ sleep
or look at the ads
on page 33”
I don’t like t’ be stuck in print
starin’ out at cavity minds
who gobble chocolate candy bars
quite content an’ satisfied
their day complete
at seein’ what I eat for breakfast
the kinds of clothes I like t’ wear
an’ the hobbies that I like t do
I never eat
I run naked when I can
my hobby’s collectin’ airplane glue

“come come now Mr. Dylan our readers want
t’ know the truth”
“that is the bare hungry sniffin’ truth”
“Mr. Dylan, you’re very funny, but really now”
“that’s all I have t’ say today”
“but you’d better answer”
“that sounds like some kind a threat”
“it just could be ha ha ha ha”
“what will my punishment”
“a rumor tale on you ha ha”
“a what kind of tale ha ha ha ha”
“yes well you’ll see, Mr. Dylan, you’ll see”

an’ I seen
or rather I have saw
your questions’re ridiculous
an’ most of your magazines’re also ridiculous
caterin’ t’ people
who want t’ see
the boy nex’ door
no I shall not corporate with reporters’ whims
there’re other kinds of boys nex’ door.
even though they’ve slanted me
they cannot take what I do away from me
they can disguise it
make it out t’ be a joke
an’ make me seem
the ridiculous one
in the eyes of their readers
they can build me up
accordin’ t’ their own terms
so that they are able
t’ bust me down
an’ “expose” me
in their own terms
givin’ blind advice
t’ unknown eyes
who have no way of knowin’
that I “expose” myself
every time I step out
on the stage


The night passes fast for me now
an’ after dancin’ out its dance
undresses leavin’ nothin’ but its naked dawn
proudly standin’
smilin’ smilin’
turnin’ turnin’
gently gently
I have seen it sneak up countless
times . . . leavin’ me conscious
with a thousand sleepy thoughts
an’ tryin’ t’ run
I think at these times
of many things an’ many people
I think of Sue most times
beautiful Sue
with the lines of a swan
frightened easy
as a fawn in the forest
by this time deep in dreams
with her long hair spread out
the color of the sun
soakin’ the dark
an’ scatterin’ light
t’ the dungeons of my constant night
I think love poems
as a poor lonesome invalid
knowin’ of my power
t’ destroy
the good souls of the road
that know no sickness
except that of kindness
(you ask of love?
there is no love
except in silence
an’ silence doesn’t say a word)
ah but Sue
she knows me well
perhaps too well
an’ is above all
the true fortuneteller of my soul
I think perhaps the only one
(you ask of truth?
there is no truth
what fool can claim t’ carry the truth
for it is but a drunken matter
romantic? yes
tragic? no I think not)
the door still knocks
an’ the wind still blows
bringin’ me my memories
of friends an’ sounds an’ colors
that can’t escape
trapped in keyholes
Eric . . . bearded Eric
far in Boston
buried beneath my window
yes I feel t’ dig the ground up
but I’m so tired
an’ know not where t’ look for tools
rap tap tap
the rattlin’ wind
blows Geno in
tellin’ me of philistines
that he’d run into durin’ the night
he stomps across my floor
I laugh
an’ drink cold coffee an’ old wine
light of feelin’
as I listen t’ one of my own tongues
take the reins
guide the path
an’ drop me off . . . headin’ back again
t’ take care of his end of the night
slam an’ Geno
then too is gone
outside a siren whines
leadin’ me down another line
I jump but get sidetracked
by clunkin’ footsteps
down the street
(it is as though my mind
ain’t mine t’ make up
any more)
I wonder if the cockroaches
still crawl in Dave an’ Terri’s
fifteenth street kitchen
I wonder if they’re the same cockroaches
ah yes the times’ve changed
Dave still scorns me for not readin’ books
an’ Terri still laughs at my rakish ways
but fifteenth street has been abandoned
we have moved . . .
the cats across the roof
mad in love
scream into the drain pipes
bringing’ in the sounds of music
the only music
an’ it is I who is ready
ready t’ listen
restin’ restin’
a silver peace
reigns an’
becomes the nerves of mornin’
an’ I stand up an’ yawn
hot with jumpin’ pulse
never tired
never sad
never guilty
for I am runnin’ in a fair race
with no racetrack but the night
an’ no competition but the dawn


So at last at least
the sky for me
is a pleasant gray
meanin’ rain
or meanin’ snow
constantly meanin’ change
but a change forewarned
either t’ the clearin’ of the clouds
or t’ the pourin’ of the storms
an’ after it’s desire
returnin’ with me underneath
returnin’ with it
never fearful
finally faithful
it will guide me well
across all bridges inside all tunnels
never failin’ . . .

with the sounds of Francois Villon
echoin’ through my mad streets
as I stumble on lost cigars
of Bertolt Brecht
an’ empty bottles
of Brendan Behan
the hypnotic words
of A. L.. Lloyd
each one bendin’ like its own song
an’ the woven’ spell of Paul Clayton
entrancin’ me like China’s plague
drownin’ in the lungs of Edith Piaf
an’ in the mystery of Marlene Dietrich
the dead poems of Eddie Freeman
love songs of Allen Ginsberg
an’ jail songs of Ray Bremser
the narrow tunes of Modigliani
an’ the singin’ plains of Harry Jackson
the cries of Charles Aznavour
with melodies of Yevtushenko
through the quiet fire of Miles Davis
above the bells of William Blake
an’ beat visions of Johnny Cash
an’ the saintliness of Pete Seeger

strokin’ my senses
down down
drownin’ drownin’
when I need t’ drown
for my road is blessed
with many flowers
an’ the sounds of flowers
liftin’ lost voices of the ground’s people
up up
higher higher
all people
no matter what creed
no matter what color skin
no matter what language an’ no matter what land
for all people laugh
in the same tongue
an’ cry
in the same tongue
endless endless
it’s all endless
an’ it’s all songs
it’s just one big world of songs
an’ they’re all on loan
if they’re only turned loose t’ sing

lonely? ah yes
but it is the flowers an’ the mirrors
of flowers that now meet my
an’ mine shall be a strong loneliness
dissolvin’ deep
t’ the depths of my freedom
an’ that, then, shall
remain my song

there’s a movie called
Shoot the Piano Player
the last line proclaimin’
“music, man, that’s where it’s at”
it is a religious line
outside, the chimes rung
an’ they
are still ringin’.

Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan – “Desolation Row” (1965)

March 30, 2010 at 6:56 pm (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Cinderella, she seems so easy
“It takes one to know one,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning
“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
You better leave”
And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row

Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid

To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
“Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row

Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
They’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words

And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row”

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row.

Bob Dylan

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Robert Shelton – “Bob Dylan: A Distinctive Stylist” (1961)

March 15, 2010 at 1:18 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

This is probably the very first newspaper article ever written about Bob Dylan. Taken from The New York Times, Sept. 29, 1961, Dylan hadn’t even come out with his first album yet, or written any major songs at this point. Shelton went on to write the 1986 biography “No Direction Home”…

A bright new face in folk music is appearing at Gerde’s Folk City. Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.

Resembling a cross between a choir boy and a beatnik, Mr. Dylan has a cherubic look and a mop of tousled hair he partly covers up with a Huck Finn black corduroy cap. His clothes may need a bit of tailoring, but when he works his guitar, harmonica or piano and composes new songs faster than he can remember them, there is no doubt that he is bursting at the seams with talent.

Mr. Dylan’s voice is anything but pretty. He is consciously trying to recapture the rude beauty of a Southern field hand musing in melody on his back porch. All the “husk and bark” are left on his notes, and a searing intensity pervades his songs.

Mr. Dylan is both comedian and tragedian. Like a vaudeville actor on the rural circuit, he offers a variety of droll musical monologues. “Talking Bear Mountain” lampoons the overcrowding of an excursion boat. “Talking New York” satirizes his troubles in gaining recognition and “Talkin’ Hava Negilah” burlesques the folk-music craze and the singer himself.

Slow-motion Mood 

In his serious vein, Mr. Dylan seems to be performing in a slow-motion film. Elasticized phrases are drawn out until you think they may snap. He rocks his head and body. He closes his eyes in reverie, seems to be groping for a word or a mood, then resolves the tension benevolently by finding the word and the mood.

He may mumble the text of “House of the Rising Sun” in a scarcely understandable growl, or sob, or clearly enunciate the poetic poignancy of a Blind Lemon Jefferson blues, “One kind favor I ask of you — See that my grave is kept clean.“

Mr. Dylan’s highly personalized approach toward folk song is still evolving. He has been sopping up influences like a sponge. At times, the drama he aims at is off-target melodrama and his stylization threatens to topple over as a mannered excess.

But if not for every taste, his music-making has the mark of originality and inspiration, all the more noteworthy for his youth. Mr. Dylan is vague about his antecedents and birthplace, but it matters less where he has been than where he is going, and that would seem to be straight up.

Robert Shelton

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Bob Dylan – “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” (1966)

March 8, 2010 at 6:55 pm (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
With your pockets well protected at last,
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
Who among them do they think could carry you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your matchbook songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

The kings of Tyrus with their convict list
Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn’t know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?
With your childhood flames on your midnight rug,
And your Spanish manners and your mother’s drugs,
And your cowboy mouth and your curfew plugs,
Who among them do you think could resist you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you the dead angels that they used to hide.
But why did they pick you to sympathize with their side?
Oh, how could they ever mistake you?
They wished you’d accepted the blame for the farm,
But with the sea at your feet and the phony false alarm,
And with the child of a hoodlum wrapped up in your arms,
How could they ever, ever persuade you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

With your sheet-metal memory of Cannery Row,
And your magazine-husband who one day just had to go,
And your gentleness now, which you just can’t help but show,
Who among them do you think would employ you?
Now you stand with your thief, you’re on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghostlike soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan – “My Life in a Stolen Moment” (1962)

March 5, 2010 at 5:01 am (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

Duluth’s an iron ore shipping town in Minnesota
It’s built up on a rocky cliff that runs into Lake Superior
I was born there — my father was born there —
My mother’s from the Iron Range Country up north
The Iron Range is a long line a mining towns
that begin at Grand Rapids and end at Eveleth
We moved up there to live with my mother’s folks
in Hibbing when I was young —
Hibbing’s got the biggest open pit ore mine in the world
Hibbing’s got schools, churches, grocery stores an’ a jail
It’s got high school football games an’ a movie house
Hibbing’s got souped-up cars runnin’ full blast
     on a Friday night
Hibbing’s got corner bars with polka bands
You can stand at one end of Hibbing’s main drag
     an’ see clear past the city limits on the other end
Hibbing’s a good ol’ town
I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 151/2, 17 an’ 18
I been caught an’ brought back all but once
I wrote my first song to my mother an’ titled it “To Mother”
I wrote that in 5th grade an’ the teacher gave me a B+
I started smoking at 11 years old an’ only stopped once
     to catch my breath
I don’t remember my parents singing too much
At least I don’t remember swapping any songs with them
Later I sat in college at the University of Minnesota
     on a phony scholarship that I never had
I sat in science class an’ flunked out for refusin’ to watch
     a rabbit die
I got expelled from English class for using four-letter words
     in a paper describing the English teacher
I also failed out of communication class for callin’ up
     every day and sayin’ I couldn’t come
I did OK in Spanish though but I knew it beforehand
I’s kept around for kicks at a fraternity house
They let me live there an’ I did until they wanted me to join
I moved in with two girls from South Dakota
in a two-room apartment for two nights
I crossed the bridge to 14th Street an’ moved in above
     a bookstore that also sold bad hamburgers
     basketball sweatshirts an’ bulldog statues
I fell hard for an actress girl who kneed me in the guts
     an’ I ended up on the East Side a the Mississippi River
     with about ten friends in a condemned house underneath
     the Washington Avenue Bridge just south a Seven Corners
That’s pretty well my college life
After that I thumbed my way to Galveston, Texas in four days
tryin’ to find an ol’ friend whose ma met me
at the screen door and said he’s in the Army —
By the time the kitchen door closed
I was passin’ California — almost to Oregon —
I met a waitress in the woods who picked me up
an’ dropped me off in Washington someplace
I danced my way from the Indian festivals in Gallup, New Mexico
To the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana
With my thumb out, my eyes asleep, my hat turned up
     an’ my head turned on
I’s driftin’ an’ learnin’ new lessons
I was making my own depression
I rode freight trains for kicks
An’ got beat up for laughs
Cut grass for quarters
An’ sang for dimes
Hitchhiked on 61 — 51 — 75 — 169 — 37 — 66 — 22
Gopher Road — Route 40 an’ Howard Johnson Turnpike
Got jailed for suspicion of armed robbery
Got held for four hours on a murder rap
Got busted for looking like I do
An’ I never done none a them things
Somewheres back I took time to start plain’ the guitar
Somewheres back I took the time to start singin’
Somewheres back I took the time to start writin’
But I never did take the time to find out why
I took the time to do those things — when they ask
Me why an’ where I got started, I gotta shake my head
     an’ weave my eyes an’ walk away dumfounded
From Shreveport I landed in Madison, Wisconsin
From Madison we filled up a four-door Pontiac with five people
An’ shot straight south an’ sharp to the East an’
     in 24 hours was still hanging on through the Hudson Tunnel —
Gettin’ out in a snowstorm an’ wavin’ goodbye
     to the three others, we swept on to MacDougal Street
with five dollars between us — but we weren’t poor
I had my guitar an’ harmonica to play
An’ he had his brother’s clothes to pawn
In a week, he went back to Madison while I stayed behind an’
Walked a winter’s line from the Lower East Side
    to Gerde’s Folk City
In May, I thumbed west an’ took the wrong highway to Florida
Mad as hell an’ tired as well, I scrambled my way back to
South Dakota by keepin’ a truck driver up all day an’ singin’
One night in Cincinnati
I looked up a long time friend in Sioux Falls an’ was let down,
     worried blind, and hit hard by seein’ how little we had to say
I rolled back to Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, lookin’ up
     ol’ time pals an’ first-run gals an’ I was beginnin’
     to find out that my road an’ their road
     is two different kinds a roads
I found myself back in New York City in the middle part
     a summer staying on 28th Street with kind, honest
     hard-working people who were good to me
I got wrote up in the Times after playin’ in the fall
     at Gerde’s Folk City
I got recorded at Columbia after being wrote up in the Times
An’ I still can’t find the time to go back an’ see why an’ where
I started doing what I’m doing
I can’t tell you the influences ’cause there’s too many
     to mention an’ I might leave one out
An’ that wouldn’t be fair
Woody Guthrie, sure
Big Joe Williams, yeah
It’s easy to remember those names
But what about the faces you can’t find again
What about the curbs an’ corners an’ cut-offs
     that drop out a sight an’ fall behind
What about the records you hear but one time
What about the coyote’s call an’ the bulldog’s bark
What about the tomcat’s meow an’ milk cow’s moo
An’ the train whistle’s moan
Open up yer eyes an’ ears an’ yer influenced
     an’ there’s nothing you can do about it
Hibbing’s a good ol’ town
I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 151/2, 17 an’ 18
I been caught an’ brought back all but once.

Bob Dylan

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